Michael Garner’s dad was not a healthy man. He had several serious medical conditions. He suffered heart attacks at age 28 and 31 and a blood clot and a stroke several years later. He died at age 34.
Garner, 47, has been overweight most of his life and has struggled with health problems. For many years he had bad eating habits; he never exercised; he underwent two back surgeries; he battled emotional issues that hindered him from pursuing a healthier lifestyle.
He has been thinking a lot about his dad recently – especially as it relates to Garner’s wife and his five children.
“To be honest it’s been really weighing on my mind. I made it past my dad’s age but these dark thoughts kept coming up on me,” he said. “It reached a point where I was really becoming scared.”
Things came to a head during a doctor’s visit in August 2020. Garner had already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. He had been taking medication to help alleviate the risks; however, the doctor said his health was still dangerously poor.
The prognosis was clear: Garner had to figure something out. He had to make a change. He was not going to get better otherwise.
He needed to get moving. And fast.
Putting in Work
Garner, a senior customer operations associate at AEP’s call center in Groveport, weighed 285 pounds and lived a sedentary lifestyle. (“I hated exercise. I hated sweating. I hated being sore,” he says.) But that very day of the doctor’s visit he and his wife – who weighed over 300 pounds herself and faced similar problems – decided to go for a walk.
They committed to getting healthier together.
Garner downloaded MyFitnessPal, a smartphone app he now uses to track his nutrition and exercise. Next, he consulted a dietician who suggested it wasn’t the quality of the food Garner was eating, it was the quantity. (“At every meal I was stuffing myself to the point I’d say I was never eating again. And then a few hours later I’d do it all over.”)
Garner was also able to finally confront another debilitating aspect of his lifestyle: his mental health. He finally appreciated that he was in firm enough emotional footing to commit to a change.
“I do know that a lot of my overeating was tied to mental health issues,” he said. “I used food to cover up my feelings, and one of the first steps to fixing myself physically was being happy and content. If I wasn’t happy I wouldn’t be able to do it. I would just bury myself in pizza.”
After only one week of mild exercise and an improved diet, Garner lost 10 pounds.
“I thought to myself, maybe I can do this.”
Less than one year later, Garner has dropped 89 pounds. (It’s the first time he’s weighed less than 200 pounds in 25 years.) His wife has lost 86 pounds.
Garner goes to the gym three or four times a week – if not more – and walks three or four miles every day. The positive milestones have been piling up:
- He is no longer diagnosed as type 2 diabetic and no longer needs medication.
- His doctor said his blood pressure is now at a manageable level and he doesn’t need medication for that, either.
- His severe sleep apnea went away.
- He’s no longer classified as “morbidly obese.”
- He’s no longer at an extremely high risk for heart attack or stroke. (“You’ve added years to your life,” his doctor told him.)
Garner has been working from home since March 2020 and Groveport employees who haven’t seen him in a while hardly recognize him. He’s been happy to share his story and encourage others.
“If it weren’t for my wife I wouldn’t have been able to do this. We truly went through this together,” Garner said. “I know that, for whatever reasons, others may have struggled with this, too. And when they hear this story I hope there’s something they can take away from it. I want them to know they are not alone. There is something they can do.”
Though Garner is proud of his accomplishments there is something else he is crystal clear about:
He’s not done yet.
Published June 8, 2021